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Family loses 18 sheep in attack by dogs

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 13 2012 10:00 p.m. MST

A group of sheepherders move through a field at a ranch in Santaquin on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012. More than a dozen sheep were found killed there earlier this week.

Ben Brewer, Deseret News

SANTAQUIN — A Utah County family remains stunned after their herd of sheep was attacked by dogs over the weekend.

Eighteen sheep were killed in the attack, and the family estimates its loss at $20,000.

Deana Jepperson and her family went Saturday to check on their sheep grazing on West Mountain when they got a call saying dogs were chasing their sheep. The Utah County Sheriff's Office had responded by the time the Jepperson family arrived.

The dogs had chased the sheep more than two miles, running them into fences and biting them, Jepperson said.

"They've chewed the muzzles up, their faces, ripped ears off trying to get them down," she said. "There are marks on their legs. It was a pretty gruesome sight. There were some of them I couldn't even look at because it made me so sick."

As of Tuesday night, part of the herd was still missing, Jepperson said. She expects it will take at least a week to find the sheep, both dead and alive.

"Part of our income is these sheep," she said. "That's money from our paycheck that we won't have."

Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Cannon said deputies Tuesday located two households believed to own three of the four dogs accused of attacking the sheep. They are looking for the fourth dog and its owner.

"We know there were four dogs. They were seen clearly by the deputies," Cannon said. "They got a good look at the one, but it took off and they didn't see where it went." 

So far, no charges have been filed in the incident, which is still under investigation, Cannon said. Charges are expected to be filed against the animals' owners for the dogs that were running at large, at least one count per dog, as well as additional charges concerning the sheep that were killed or injured, he said.

"I think that we're satisfied that these particular dogs aren't going to be a further danger, but even the final outcome for the dogs is still up in the air," Cannon said. "It's possible the dogs may be taken from the owners, unless there can be some kind of arrangement that is satisfactory for all involved."

Utah County resident Marcy Smith said her dog was shot Sunday following the incident, though she insists the dog had nothing to do with the attack. She admits her dog runs free at times, but insists it wouldn't chase sheep.

"My dog had been shot and her neck ripped open, and she was down bleeding out," Smith said.

She told sheriff's deputies her dogs were kenneled at the time of the attack.

Cannon wasn't sure about the details surrounding the shooting, though initial reports indicate the person who fired may have done so because he believed he was protecting the sheep, he said.

Jepperson said this isn't the first incident of domestic dogs chasing her sheep, but it is by far the worst. She hopes dog owners will act more responsibly and keep track of their pets once they understand the threat posed to livestock.

"We're not the only ones with the problem," she said. "People have just got to pay attention to what their dogs are doing. They've got to be responsible pet owners."

Contributing: Alex Cabrero

E-mail: mromero@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @McKenzieRomero

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